New Delhi: Shahdara district court at Karkardooma on July 14 rejected the bail applications of Pinjra Tod’s Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal in a case related to the communal violence in North-East Delhi in February this year, citing lack of merit in the pleas.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students were arrested by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police on May 23 and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including rioting, unlawful assembly and attempt to murder.
A women’s collective, Pinjra Tod was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.
SERIES OF FIRs AND SUBSEQUENT ARRESTS
It all started with the registration of an FIR (No. 250/19) at Daryaganj police station on December 21, 2019 under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 153A(2) (promoting enmity between two groups), 436 (mischief by fire or any explosive substance), 427 (causing damage to the amount of Rs 50), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 332 (causing hurt to any person being a public servant), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of his public duty) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) read with Section 3/4 of Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act, 1984. The FIR is related to the violence near Delhi Gate under the said police station during protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Thereafter, another FIR (No. 48/20) was registered at Jafrabad police station on February 24, 2020 under Sections 186/188/353/283/341/109/147/34 IPC and the duo were named as accused.
On March 6, 2020, one more FIR (No. 59/20) under sections 120B, 124A, 302, 307, 353, 186, 212, 395, 487, 435, 436, 452, 109, 114, 147, 148, 124A, 153A and 34 of the IPC and Sections 25 and 26 of the Arms Act was registered by the Crime Branch in a separate case related to the communal violence in February, for allegedly being part of a “premeditated conspiracy”.
The case is now being investigated by the Special Cell of the city police. After the Special Cell took over, the stringent anti-terror law — Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA — was added in the FIR.
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Communal clashes had broken out in Northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.
On May 23, 2020, Kalita was arrested in FIR No. 48/20. Next day, a duty magistrate passed an order of bail in the said FIR. When the order was being dictated, the investigating agency (the Crime Branch) appeared and sought re-arrest and police custody of the accused in the present FIR No. 50/20 registered on February 26, 2020. The agency was granted two days of police custody.
On May 26, the duty magistrate at Mandoli Jail extended the remand by two days “without providing the applicant with a copy of remand application or remand order”. On May 28, 2020, her judicial remand was extended for 14 days till June 11, 2020.
During this period, on May 29, 2020, the investigating agency in FIR No. 250/19 registered Daryaganj sought permission to interrogate the applicant from the duty magistrate at Tihar Jail. On May 30, an application for four days police remand was moved and three days police custody was given. On June 2, 2020, the applicant was produced before the duty magistrate at Tihar Jail and she was granted bail in FIR No. 250/19.
On June 2, 2020, the chargesheet in the present FIR No. 50/2020 was filed. The applicant was extended to judicial custody till July 25, 2020 in FIR No. 59/2020. On June 11, 2020, the judicial custody remand of the accused in the present case was extended by a magistrate “without her production”.
During the hearing held through video conferencing, Advocate Adit S. Pujari, counsel for the students, told the court that they have not been named in the FIR and no role has been attributed to them by the police in the case.
The public prosecutor opposed the bail applications, saying one of the accused arrested in the case “disclosed” during the investigation that Narwal, along with her other associates, including Kalita, had “instigated” him and other rioters to indulge in violence.
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The student’s lawyer claimed that the allegations against them were false and the chargesheet has been filed in the case and the probe is complete.
However, the prosecutor said it has been found that during the protests against CAA, a group of ‘highly-qualified ladies’, including Narwal, in a continuous process, directly or indirectly, instigated common Muslim people to “protest against the Government of India stating that CAA is totally against the Muslims, and by passing the law, the Centre may sack Muslims from India”.
The public prosecutor further alleged that during the investigation, it was revealed that Narwal along with her associates were “actively” participating to “cause riots” in Delhi with the “sole motive to disturb peace and law and order situation” in the national capital.
He alleged they “poisoned” the minds of Muslims and “instigated” them to create an adverse, unlawful situation in the city. He added that their phone locations showed they were present in North-East district, just before and during the initial part of riots.
Pujari said judicial custody of Narwal and Kalita was extended on June 11 illegally by the duty magistrate as the accused were not produced before the magistrate and the investigating officer had not shown the need for remand during the investigation.
This submission was opposed by the prosecutor who said the judicial custody remand of Narwal and Kalita was extended according to law and under special circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking note of the submissions, Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said, “On June 11, Narwal was required for court production through video conferencing and as she was quarantined as a precautionary measure for the prevention of COVID-19 pandemic, it was apprised to the duty magistrate who extended the judicial remand.”
“The purpose of the order of the magistrate was to ensure that there was no detention of anyone without the involvement and order of the court … There is an extraordinary situation of COVID-19 which has to be factored into and if the accused is quarantined due to which she could not be produced, this fact by itself would not convince the court to grant bail to the accused on this ground,” he said.
The prosecutor submitted that some “unscrupulous elements” allegedly hatched a “large scale conspiracy and carried out riots in the area of North-East Delhi.
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Both accused persons started visiting the protest site from January 15 at Seelampur, Delhi, and allegedly helped in organising the violent protests in the Northeast district, he said.
“One Aman died on February 25 due to gunshot injury caused by the rioters. Total 35 empty cartridges were recovered from the spot and only 17 were used by the police,” he said.
The prosecutor said efforts were being made to unearth the entire chain of events leading to the riots and other accused persons were yet to be arrested.
The court was further informed that the chargesheet has been filed against 10 persons in the case and investigation was still being done.
The police have reiterated the same story they narrated in the chargesheets filed earlier in different riot-related cases, that the “violent” anti-CAA protestors “armed with weapons” organised “unlawful assembly” at multiple locations, they “misguided” Muslims that the new citizenship legislation will snatch their citizenship, illegally blocked several roads, including Shaheen Bagh. After 66-Foota Road at Jaffrabad Metro station was blocked, it enraged locals who hit the streets to get the carriageway cleared and in this way, the violence took place.
The same chronological order of the anti-CAA protests has been narrated here as well. The only difference in this chargesheet is that the investigators have also mentioned the details of violence that took place in December last year during the anti-CAA protests across the city.
As in the previous chargesheets, this one too does not have any mention of instigation by different Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Kapil Mishra. Despite the fact that Mishra gave an ultimatum to the police at Maujpur traffic signal in the presence of a deputy commissioner of police and asked people to come out on roads if the cops fail to clear the roads, the chargesheet conveniently ignored any mention the incident. The investigators also omitted describing how Right-Wing mobs laid a siege in entire North-East Delhi and got control of several roads.
However, the chargesheet does mention that cops fired 108 bullets from 5.56 MM INSAS rifles in “self-defence” when they tried to stop a “violent” mob from near Cresent Public School near Jaffrabad Metro Station from moving towards protestors of the “other” community, who had assembled at Maujpur.
But, there is no mention whether anyone suffered injuries or died in the police firing. However, there are details that 10 men of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and nine belonging to the Delhi Police suffered injuries after the protestors clashed.
On the death of 18-year-old Aaman, a resident of New Seelampur, the investigators have concluded that the young boy was killed “in the firing by rioters” who were “attacking the police party” with fire arms.
The chargesheet claims that the names of Kalita and Narwal cropped up during the questioning of accused Shahrukh Khan who allegedly told the police that the two girls “instigated” people to block the main Jaffrabad road ahead of United States President Donald Trump’s visit to India. He also reportedly disclosed that the duo were members of United Against Hate and were in contact with former JNU student Umar Khalid, who has also been booked under stringent UAPA sections in FIR No. 59/20.
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The police said that they would file a supplementary chargesheet in the matter, ascertaining the roles played by the two and others after further investigations.
Interestingly, of the 53 witnesses mentioned in the chargesheet, only two are locals (videographers whom the police had hired to record the violence). Out of the rest 51 witnesses, nine are doctors, three are nodal officers of three different telecom service providers, 39 are police officers.